Question time on the FM website, espisode 3

Ask any question about geopolitics, broadly defined. We’ll attempt to answer it.  Links to other episodes appear below.

Like Jeporady, your comments must be in the form of a question!

Questions received so far:

  1. Why do you say Americans (and especially conservatives have become gullible?
  2. Will African nations see a manufacturing boom like their Asian counterparts someday?
  3. Has post-Soviet NATO failed or was it simply supplanted by the Neoliberal belief that free markets would fix everything without any structured Western guidance?
  4. Do you forsee an decrease in unemployment anytime soon and will Obamas new stimilus job program have any worthwhile affect on the numbers?
  5. Unrelated comment.
  6. Some questions about the war on drugs.
  7. Are Irving Fisher’s “debt-deflation” and Richard Koo’s “balance sheet recession” the same thing?  Are they both consistent with observation that we are in a liquidity trap?   Can providing sufficient liquidity jolt us from a liquidity trap?
  8. Do you think Brazil, Russia, and India will become great powers like the Western European nations or more or less powerful?
  9. Can Earth become like Venus, as we add CO2 to the atmosphere?
  10. Allowing openly gay people in the armed forces has arroused massive, even frantic opposition among active duty and retired military personnel.  Was there an opportunity to avoid all this?
  11. Does China have a grip on the production of rare earth minerals, vital for high tech devices?
  12. Was it wrong or inappropriate of Treasury Geithner to offer advice to Europe, given the seriousness of our own problems?

Previous episodes

Earlier episodes were big successes. My thanks to all who participated!

40 thoughts on “Question time on the FM website, espisode 3”

    1. I have provided proof by demonstration. Americans, epecially conservative, will believe anythign that conforms to their prejudices. Here is the ur-example: “The Girl Scouts’ Allegedly Radical Feminist Lesbian Agenda“, Amanda Marcotte, Slate, 15 September 2011 — “What conservative Christian rumors about the group get wrong—and right.”

      Since journalists worship at the “opinions differ on the shape of the Earth” church, the article provides a spurious balance, fulfilling their fuction of providing facts while keepign us ignorant. Here are some of the articles she cites, conservative agitprop for gullible fools.

      (1) The Cookie Crumbles – The Girl Scouts go PC“, Kathryn Jean Lopez (associate editor), National Review, 23 October 2000 — Excerpt:

      The Girl Scouts’ leaders hope to make their youthful charges the shock troops of an ongoing feminist revolution.

      … Today, the Girl Scouts is arguably one of the most politically correct organizations in the country. Its executive director, Marsha Johnson Evans, has impeccable feminist credentials: She had a 29-year career in the Navy, during which she earned the title of rear admiral, only the second woman ever to do so. As head recruiter for the Navy, she was the mother of the 12-12-5 affirmative-action policy, a mandate to make the Navy look more like America: 12 percent African-American, 12 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian/Pacific.

      A real admiral! Are most US Admiral leftists? She then quotes from a sensational book, and uses the classic propaganda technique of quoting unsourced materials. Such as this:

      One resource book for Scouts informs its young readers:”Some girls have sexual attractions or desires for people of the same sex.”

      No title given. No year given. This suggests it’s a rumor, another one of the million bits of disinformation circulated among conservatives.

      (2) Girl Scouts Deny Sex Guide Was at UN Meeting for Girls: But it Was There“, Family Research Council, 15 March 2010 — What does it mean that the a sex guide by planned Parenthood was “at the meeting”? They carefully constructed smear does not say that the guide was discussed, let alone that any individual at the meeting advocated its use.

      The Girl Scouts reply that this statement is not remotely accurate.

      (3) Girl Scouts exposed: Lessons in lesbianism“, Chelsea Schilling, World Net Daily, 17 May 2009 — “Communists, radical feminists cited as role models for troops”. Excerpt:

      In the Girl Scout curriculum, the organization’s promise now includes an asterisk with the following disclaimer:

      “Girl Scouts of the USA makes no attempt to define or interpret the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise. It looks to individual members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs. When making the Girl Scout Promise, individuals may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word ‘God’.”

      … Many of the female role models mentioned are feminists, lesbians, existentialists, communists and Marxists.

      The policy about God is necessary for a global organization; the Boy Scouts have a similar policy. The evil people they list all have notable accomplishments, despite their admitted or alledged relationships (some named merely spoke in favor of gay rights).

    2. “I have provided proof by demonstration.”

      This ‘demonstration by anecdotes’ proves that some Americans are gullible. I won’t dispute that. It is a long way from proving that “especially conservatives” are gullible, but relying on such a weak (actually, invalid) form of argument provides at least suggestive evidence that this poster to the site is inclined to “believe anythign that conforms to their prejudices”. Otherwise, why rely on lame arguments?

      This is unfortunate because it tends to taint the information accumulated here, which generally is a pretty nice source of intriguing references. By the way, I presume there are some posts or references that inform visitors of FM’s definition of “conservative” – – how you know one when you see one. Could you direct us to these references (or at least a few of them if there are many).

      1. You are, of course, correct that no aamount of annecdata can become a proof. But assembly of outrageous incidents indicates the scale and nature of the problem, and is in usual usage the only tool we have. I have a draft listing the various grossly false beliefs that have become accepted in American consevative thought. it’s a long list. Liberal and leftest political commentary has become little but vain attempts to refute the flood of misinformation and outright nonsense coming from the right.

        There are two easy responses. One is to see the phenomenon and responsd, discussing causes and remedies. The other is denial (in the normal sense, not in the sense of holocaust denial) asking for proof, the sort possible with a large budget for staff and computer time. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the latter. Truth is of little value in US politics, and so seldom sought.

        “proves that some Americans are gullible” (bold emphasis added)

        Is proof needed? Does anyone doubt that statement? The relevant point — documented (a more accurate than proof) by example here and elsewhere — is that American political and economic discussions have become dominated by obviously erroneous beliefs.

        “a long way from proving that ‘especially conservatives’ are gullible,”
        Yes, that would be difficult to prove — without the sort of large budget today reserved for conservative and liberal agitprop. However, liberal discussions are in my experience better grounded in reality with the exception of climate change — which has become a theology of the most hidebound kind. The opposite is true among conservatives. My impression is that the opposite was true 30 years ago, although the left back then was not as crazy as the far-right today.

        “FM’s definition of “conservative””
        Perhaps that is important and relevant. its seems like pettifoggery to me in this kind of broad discussion. I doubt that there is a wide range of definitions in general use today about American conservatism.

    3. desierasmus,

      in one preliminary study, brains scans indicated that conservatives and liberals have differing cognitive patterns. this would seem to support the idea that there are two fundamentally different archetypes in human consciousness at play. in one archetypal theory, it is held that conservatives locate evil in the individual (lack of “personal responsibility”), whereas liberals locate evil in the collective (lack of social/structural responsibility). As FM hints, conservatism is based on remnants of premodern/medieval culture (mythic conformism). Conservatives frequently “pose” as believers in scientific rationalism, at least when they are pointing out what the conservatives see as the “irrational” behavior of liberals. However, conservatives almost never examine their own “irrational” behavior in the same fashion (e.g., Rush Limbaugh).

      According to Rabbi Michael Lerner ( the contemporary version of conservatism/neoconservatism rose in the vacuum created by the spiritual and political failures of the New Left movement. Perhaps you remember the epic debates between intellectual conservatives and liberals on the PBS TV series “Firing Line” in the 70s/80s? The intellectual conservatives were able to create a vast number of “reasons” that conservatism was “valid” based on the failures of the Left. As Leftist opposition to the evils of capitalism (or state capitalism) was discredited, conservatives/neoconservatives gained support from the Military-Industrial-Complex, Big Oil, Big Banks, and so forth. Ronald Reagan then made the celebration of the resulting ruination of the constitutional and economic order by corporate corruption seem “patriotic”.

      The classic example of conservative is how the Koch Bros. (Corporate Criminals / big oil family) funded the Tea Party movement recently, and thus falsely appropriated populist outrage.

      So, since the 60s, opposition from the Left has been significantly discredited, and the Right has become Predatory and Opportunistic (corrupted by money and power – see Habermas). National elections cycles have shown for at least 25 years that voters wildly and irrationally swing back and forth between ideological poles as they become disgusted with the failures of first a liberal (Carter), then a conservative (Reagan/Bush), then a liberal (Clinton), then a conservative (Bush Jr.), etc.

      Clearly a “Third Way” is needed. One proposal is that the “Third Way” is holism/integralism.

    4. Here is an entertaining polemic examination of the methods of the Kochs and their allies: {“Billionaire Koch Brothers Use Their $1 Billion-A-Year Taxpayer-Funded Biofuel Subsidy To Bankroll Republicans, Tea Party, Right-wing Libertarian Groups
      By Yasha Levine, Exiled Online, 3 March 2011} Excerpt—

      “There’s a great graphic showing this process at work in Wisconsin, charting how the millions of dollars of Koch money that poured into the state to elect Scott Walker and other Koch-funded Republicans has led directly to the cutting of benefits for government employees and the Kochs getting access to state-owned energy infrastructure—which has apparently been the Kochs’ longtime goal. Unfortunately, the flow chart left out one crucial step: that taxpayers are the initial source of Koch money, which would make the chart circular instead of linear.”

    5. re: “liberal discussions are in my experience better grounded in reality”

      Some, but not all. Identity politics are typical in liberal circles, as is thought policing and political correctness. These postmodern variants of “liberalism/leftism” have “infected” liberalism with spiritual pathologies such as narcissism/nihilism. ironically, the same spiritual pathologies have also “infected” conservatism! In both cases, corruption ALWAYS results, indicating the need for a THIRD WAY.

      The shortcoming of liberal thought is the almost complete inability to see how the failures of the New Left movement in the 60s (and previous attempts at progressivism) resulted in the discrediting of opposition to “capitalist” corruption. Corrupt capitalism has fed the conservative and neoconservative movements, funding a vast number of “think tanks” and other venues that provide support to a corrupt, but well funded and increasingly powerful, conservative movement that covers up the dysfunctional aspects of conservative culture, ideology and politics.

      1. The discredited left is dependent on vilifying the right.
      2. The discredited right is dependent on vilifying the left.
      3. There must have been an ancient greek tragedy describing such an archetypal meltdown?

      Both liberalism and conservatism are predatory and parasitic, just in different ways. Any “reform” proposed under a “liberal” mantra is destined to failure unless allied to a “Third Way” that can legitimate reform by aligning it with a holistic/integral paradigm.

    1. Industry in Africa seems to follow the colonial model: resource extraction (oil, minerals), including the new area of large scale mechanized (chinese) agribusiness?

      According to Cesar Hidalgo, Geoffrey West’s (and others’) work in scaling physics/complexity theory, the limits of development *can* be accurately predicted using information modeling. Unfortunately many (but not all) poor areas will stay relatively poor to due geographic proximity, etc. Wikipedia on human dynamics {“Human dynamics is a new branch of complex systems research in statistical physics.”}. Google Books {on Bursts: the hidden pattern behind everything we do}

      Military interest in the topic (but no direct reference to economic development): Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Understanding Human Dynamics, March 2009. Background, excerpt from Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #46

      This report’s central finding is that the Department of Defense and military services must improve their understanding of human dynamics and develop institutions, tools, and programs to enhance this capability across the full spectrum of military operations.

  1. Marc A. Cirigliano

    Has post-Soviet NATO failed or was it simply supplanted by the Neoliberal belief that free markets would fix everything without any structured Western guidance?

    1. I do not see the relationship between these two trends, or how the latter supplanted the former.

      (1) “Has post-Soviet NATO failed”?

      NATO has outlived its original purpose. It has not found a new purpose, but IMO that is not failure — especially considering its great success during the Cold War.

      (2) “Neoliberal belief that free markets would fix everything”

      The growth of this faith is one of the great trends of the past generation, a repudiation of the great post-WWII success from high taxes, rigorous regulation of the financial sector, and industrial policy. On the other hand, the ascent of free market ideology has produce a concentration of wealth and power to the rich. It’s one of the great successes of a long-term and patient investment strategy — investing in propaganda to mold public opinion.

    2. Marc A. Cirigliano

      But at the inception of the Post-Soviet NATO era, it wasn’t public opinion but rather deliberate Neoliberal policy decisions, in particular by an inexperienced President Clinton, that pushed the ready-made diplomatic and political framework of NATO aside in favor of letting the market decide everything. To my mind:

      1. Eastern Europe has paid a heavy price for this with massive corruption spoiling the rule of democratic law.
      2. The Middle East fell further into violence because of a lack of Western attention.
      3. Africa suffered and is suffering at the hand of many war lords for whom democracy is the furthest concern.

      The US and western Europe, through NATO, could have made in big difference in the world we now find ourselves in.

      1. “1. Eastern Europe has paid a heavy price for this with massive corruption spoiling the rule of democratic law.”
        Not a NATO problem. And I doubt the US or western European nations could have had any substantial effect on corruption.

        “2. The Middle East fell further into violence because of a lack of Western attention.”
        You must be kidding. It’s been a focal point of great power attention since WWII.

        “3. Africa suffered and is suffering at the hand of many war lords for whom democracy is the furthest concern.”
        I doubt the great powers could affect this with anything short of re-colonialism. And that’s not been an option since Mao brought 4GW to maturity.

    3. 1. “Not a NATO problem.” So, post-WWII US foreign policy through NATO really didn’t want to foster democracy in the captive nations?

      2. No, I’m not kidding. Did we trade simple the expediency of oil for the more complex but desirable fostering of human rights, rule of law and democracy in the Middle East?

      3. You may be right on this point. Someone asked Lester Thurow what he’d do if someone gave him Africa and he responded by saying he’d give it back.

      1. Let’s try again.

        (1) “post-WWII US foreign policy through NATO really didn’t want to foster democracy in the captive nations?”

        That’s right, they did not seek to do so through NATO. Do not confuse NATO, the organization with a specific purpose, with its component governments. As the Preamble to the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty creating NATO says: “They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.” The specifics refer to the NATO members strengthening their internal institutions; the references to foreign affairs focus on peace-keeping and defense.

        More broadly, during the Cold War fostering democracy in Eastern Europe was not a high priority — with a few, mostly disasterously delusional exceptions such as Hungary 1956).

        (2) Your original question said “ii.The Middle East fell further into violence because of a lack of Western attention.” I disagree with your belief of a lack of attention by the west; they paid a lot of attention to the ME (whether that helped the ME people is another questions). Here you ask a different question, but again I question its assumption: we have not fostered “human rights, rule of law, and democracy” in the Middle East. In Syria, Bahrain, in Egypt, in Palestine. I suspect that we’ve not done so in Libya (much of what we’ve been told about Libya may be lies, such as Gadhafi’s massacres).

        (3) “what he’d do if someone gave him Africa and he responded by saying he’d give it back.”

        I disagree with the sentiment. Africa’s problems are political and social; its economic potential is great. Africa’s immediate future is, like that of most underdeveloped nations, as an exporter of resources (e.g., agricultural products, minerals). Which can make it a major player on the world stage. It’s manufacturing industies are embryonic.

        “Africa south of the Sahara, with the exception of South Africa (a country with its own peculiar political problems) is the world’s economic basket case. If God gave it to you and made you its economic dictator, the only smart move would be to give it back to Him”
        — Lester Thurow in Head to Head: The Looming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe and America (1992)”

    4. Marc A. Cirigliano

      Let’s re-try a variant of the original question: could you imagine NATO having transformed itself and fostering new international initiatives early in the post-Soviet era in a way that might have made the world we live in a different and better place? At that time, the West had:

      1. Ascendant military power.
      2. Ascendant economic power.
      3. Intellectual, scientific and policy institutions oriented to problem solving.

      It seemed to me that we could have done more back then. Instead, our leaders seemed like so many Chauncey Gardners. You know, keep smiling as long as the audience isn’t booing.

      1. (1) As I have said in repy to each and every one of your comments, NATO was a military alliance. Helping other nations as you describe was outside its mandate. Why do you ignore this?

        (2) Of the three things you list as advantages, I believe #1 was irrelevant to helping the ex-Soviet states and #3 is probably not accurate (how would you prove such a thing?).

        (3) In hindsight there are many things we could have done. At the time it was unclear what should be done (i.e., the risk of policy errors was high).

        (4) Why limit your question to helping Eastern Europe? Why should they get more attention than our cousins in Latin America? Than the top global hotspot, the Middel East? Than the future center of the world, East Asia?

        (5) These disucssions tend to ignore the risks of intervention. Blowback from the inevitable opposition aroused by foreigners interferring. Getting blamed by the locals for bad outcomes (people love to blame the foreigners, even when not responsible). And most important, screwing up bigtime. We are uncertain how to fix the United States. Traveling five thousand miles does not give greater insight into cultural manipulation (the opposite is true) or more IQ points.

  2. Do you forsee an decrease in unemployment anytime soon and will Obamas new stimilus job program have any worthwhile affect on the numbers?

    1. (1) I do not expect US employment to increase for months. Perhaps years; it’s difficult to say. I have said this since January 2010. Unemployment varies as people retire or just give up the search for work, both of which is and will continue to happen at high rates.

      (2) The American people have become like children. Medicine cannot stablize the patient or mitigate the symptoms. That is denounced as worthless. We demand magic cures. Unfortunately the easy steps are effective but just first aid. Like bandages and morphine, they don’t cure but are still vital. I explained all this back in 2008:

      1. A solution to our financial crisis, 25 September 2008
      2. The last opportunity for effective action before disaster strikes, 3 October 2008
  3. Introduction of the moveable type press in mid-14th century seems to have been more than coincidentally related to the challenges to the instruments of social control across Europe, as exemplified by the rise of the universities, the Protestant Reformation and the “wars of religion” that erupted in the following century as the cost of diffusing and archiving information dropped rapidly and literacy became an achievable goal for a substantial fraction of the population. Call that the “Gutenberg I” revolution.

    We are now about 50 years into a “Gutenberg II” information technology revolution, as engineers probe the limits of “Moore’s Law” and users find new ways of accumulating new information, mining its content, and connecting with other like-minded users in many odd and wonderful ways. At the same time, public literacy levels have declined and in many ways, as audio and video files proliferate, making one’s way in the world without being able to read seems to be easier than ever.

    It seems clear that Gutenbergy II has been upsetting the apple cart of social control mechanisms as thoroughly as Gutenberg I did, but also providing openings for new mechanisms to be applied to a less-literate population. How important are literacy and scholarly skills in “securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and posterity” in a world dominated by audio-visual communication and archival search engines? What might replace or supplement them as new instruments of social control are tested and applied, and how might those who still value liberty press their cause in this environment?.

  4. This question is an extension of desieramsus’ question from part 1 of this series (regarding the war on drugs). Although you say you have no expertise in the subject , you plainly know way more about geopolitics in general than I do, so I would value your insight into the following: the television program “DEA”, aired by Spike TV, is produced by Al Roker Entertainment. The content of the show speaks for itself as being unreflexively in support of the war on drugs. My question: do you think that it is significant that Al Roker Entertainment also produces ads for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly? Or is it a simple matter of low production costs? According to wikipidea, Eli Lilly has former execs who work for the Hudson Institute, which published this laughable plea for funding the drug war: “Cocaine Crossroads: Progress from Colombia, Challenge from Venezuela”, 15 November 2007. It is hard to believe that such a speech was taken seriously by an audience with great academic credentials, or any thinking person for that matter.

    I would also be interested in your opinion regarding possible connections between the war on drugs, prisons for profit (prisons built and operated by companies) and the pharmaceutical industry.

    1. (1) I have no idea about the first few questions.

      (2) As for the war on drugs, it’s mad. Like our other long wars, the participants on both sides gain power and income along the way.

      1. “Drug cartels ‘threaten’ Mexican democracy”, 24 July 2008
      2. One of America’s few wise men tells us about Mexico, 6 May 2009
      3. Another urban legend that will not die: the CIA is the world’s major drug dealer, 17 July 2009
      4. National Drug Threat Assessment 2010, 29 March 2010
      5. Nixon declared war on drugs, a major investment of America in itself – but one that’s gone bad, 21 May 2010
  5. Are Irving Fisher’s “debt-deflation” and Richard Koo’s “balance sheet recession” the same thing? More broadly is Krugman’s diagnosis that we are in a liquidity trap fundamentally at odds with the above notions and if so what policy changes might deal more effectively with debt deflation if that’s our main problem. Some are now suggesting that providing liquidity as though to jolt us from a liquidity trap is doomed to fail given that our economic actors (banks, firms, consumers) have a solvency (balance sheet) problem not a liquidity(cash flow) problem.

    1. These are all perspectives on the same dynamics. Emphasis on different aspects, different time horizons.

      As so many have said since the start of this crisis, monetary and fiscal stimulus provide first aid. They stabilize the economy, buying time to treat the underlying conditions. Instead we have delusionally considered the temporary improvement as a cure — and skipped the whole “treat the serious underlying problems” thing. Unfortunately, as Japan has learned, these excess debt gig cures itself VERY VERY slowly if no public policy reforms are implemented. Letting nature take its course is easy but moronic.

  6. Do you think Brazil, Russia, and India will become great powers like the Western European nations or more or less powerful? (We already know your views on China)

    1. The questions on this thread are fantastic!

      Brazil and Russia clearly have the potential to become great powers (for Russia, to again become a great power), due to their resources and population. But their social and political problems are large. Perhaps in a generaton or two.

      1. More news about Russia’s demographic collapse, 6 June 2008
      2. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009 — A great story about demographics, Robert Heinlin, and Russia
      3. .

    1. It is astonishing how much misinformation people learn by reading about current issues. Venus is hot, but that has near-zero relevance to climate dynamics on Earth.

      (1) Venus is hotter than Earth because it is closer to the Sun. Venus is aprox 0.72 AU distant from the sun (i.e., 72% of Earth’s), with a total solar irradiance (TSI) almost 2x that of Earth.

      (2) Venus is hotter than Earth because the the atmosphere is denser. The pressure on Venus is 93x that of Earth, the equivalent of being almost 1 kilometer under the ocean. This is probably the single largest factor accounting for its high temperature.

      (3) The clouds of Venus are mostly sulphuric acid, not water vapor — a more powerful greenhouse agent.

      (4) The atmosphere of Venus has nearly 3000x more co2 than Earth’s atmosphere.

      1. NASA fact sheet for Venus: “96.5% Carbon Dioxide (CO2) by volume.
      2. NASA fact sheet for Earth: “Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – 380ppm” — which is 0.038%
  7. Submitted by email from a reader

    Allowing openly gay people in the armed forces has arroused massive, even frantic opposition among active duty and retired military personnel. Was there an opportunity to avoid all this?

    1. There was an opportunity to avoid all this. The military community loves the 2007 film 300. If only it had shown this announcement at the beginning:


    1. It’s always fun to see how people’s belief are influenced by names. Greenland is not very green. Rare earths are not very rare. China gained control of current supply by cutting prices. As they raise prices old mines elsewhere reopen and new mines are developed. The US has the world’s 3rd largest reserves — with two large deposits, the Mountain Pass mine in California (once the world’s largest) and Bear Lodge Mine in Wyoming. There are others around the world, such as the mine under development in Kuantan, Malaysia.

      For more see:

      1. Publications by the US Geological Survey about rare earths
      2. Rare earths – a hidden but strategic battleground between the US and China, 5 May 2010
      3. Taking a Risk for Rare Earths“, New York Times, 8 March 2011 — “A colossal construction project {in Malaysia} could help determine whether the world can break China’s chokehold on the strategic metals crucial to products as diverse as Apple’s iPhone, Toyota’s Prius and Boeing’s smart bombs.”
    2. WaPo: Rare Earths Are Not Rare

      How to free the world from China’s rare-earth stranglehold“, Brad Plumer, blog of the Washington Post, 16 September 2011 — Excerpt:

      “Despite their name, rare-earth elements aren’t actually all that rare. At different points in the 20th century, countries such as Brazil, India, the United States and South Africa all held the top spot for rare-earth mining. But in the 1980s, China cranked up production massively, causing prices to crater, and managed to take over the market, as this chart from the U.S. Geological Survey illustrates:”

  8. The FM website has been critical of the wisdom in establishing the vast network of US military bases around the world.

    When the time comes to look at the cost of those bases in order to save tax dollars what criteria should be applied in choosing which to keep?

    1. That is a complex question, requiring more thought than possible now. A few quick thoughts about evaluating bases:

      1. Is the base essential to project power in an area of vital American interest (not in the delusional “the world is our battlefield” sense)?
      2. Can we afford it?

      We can learn from the similar process the British went through after WWII. It’s not just the cost of base. The other — and seldom mentioned — drag of foreign bases: they represent a hemorrhage in our current account. This was one of the big reason the UK shut down their bases in the post imperial era. Esp the middle east bases, which they wanted to keep.

  9. Mr Geitner made a speech telling the EU what they should be doing to sort their alleged money problems. The US has sorted its alleged money problems , and can advise lesser mortals , then ? I seem to have missed something.

    1. You are probably referring to Treasury Secretary Geithner’s remarks at the meeting of the European finance ministers (New York Times article here). Your comment reflect the media coverage, which IMO is not accurte on several levels — as usual these days, when the media often substitutes snark for brains.

      1. Grithner was invited to the meeting, to offer his advice. That IMO trashes the conventional snarky analysis.
      2. Every nation has problems. That does not mean that nations should not give advice to one another.
      3. The US has gone through the from many into one process — the long, hard way — in way unlike any nation in Europe excluding the Swiss and Belgians. It gives us a different perspective on Europe’s situation.
  10. Could a prediction market provide a workable solution to some of our decision failures? While I recognise it isn’t applicable in all situations, I feel that it has the advantage of making idealogues-in-wise-men’s-clothing shut up or put up where their predictions are concerned.

    Would such a system be feasible, and how can we try and prevent it from being gamed?

    (I also feel that listing each pundit’s “batting average” would give the public a better idea of the appropriate level of confidence in their predictions, but that’s another story.)
    FM note: Prediction Markets, from Wikipedia (as always, the links provided are the major value):

    Speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions. The current market prices can then be interpreted as predictions of the probability of the event or the expected value of the parameter. People who buy low and sell high are rewarded for improving the market prediction, while those who buy high and sell low are punished for degrading the market prediction. Evidence so far suggests that prediction markets are at least as accurate as other institutions predicting the same events with a similar pool of participants.

    1. In my opinion (wild guessing), these have little value in terms of improving institutional decision-making. However, tracking pundits would provide a valuable service by weeding out the large number of incompetents and shills. However, experts tend to ride waves. This gives them a spurious accuracy — until the trend changes. For example, the tech-bulls, like George Gilder, during the 1990s. They got the details right, but had near-zero understanding of the overall trends.

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